Should you be Facebook friends with your staff?

Agency life, Personal, Social Media, Technology — By on August 11, 2011 4:00 am

If you are a manager, should you be friends on Facebook with your team? This is a question I asked, appropriately enough, on Facebook recently. The answer? It depends.

The jury is out on whether it’s a good idea or not, but there are some areas of agreement. Let’s start with the pros and cons:

Pros

  • Makes the manager seem more ‘human’ and fosters a more personal relationship.
  • Helps the manager learn more about their employees – what’s going on in their lives, what makes them tick, the skills they have.
  • Opens a new channel of communication which is less formal.
  • Helps keep in touch with alumni who leave the business.
  • It’s entertaining.

Cons

  • The employee may feel their manager is stalking them – some things are private.
  • The manager may learn something they’d rather not know about a team mate.
  • The manager may be opening themselves to some form of discrimination charge if they find certain information.
  • Some managers feel being friends impairs their ability to manage effectively.
  • The manager might share something inappropriate about themselves.

In terms of rules of the road and advice:

  • It’s not ok for the manager to initiate the Friend Request – this might put people in an uncomfortable position of having to accept.
  • It is ok for the employee to initiate the request – which the manager can then choose to accept or not.
  • The manager should either accept all Requests or none, otherwise it smacks of favoritism.
  • Managers should consider using Google+ or LinkedIn for professional social relationships – it’s ok to initiate those.
  • Employees who have been Friended can make judicious use of the Permissions, Filters and Lists features of Facebook.
  • You probably shouldn’t unfriend your boss.
  • Review your company’s social media policy – there may be some guidelines in there to cover the situation.
Personally, I have found Facebook to be helpful in getting to know staff and in building a personal relationship. Then again I have a fairly open style of management and communication, which might not fit all organizations. I am however guilty of friending people at work (sorry!), so I’ll perhaps use G+ for that moving forward. What has your experience been? Are you Facebook friends with people at work?

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I write about digital communications and personal performance. Please feel free to follow me on Twitter at @morganm or subscribe to this blog here.

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  • Russ

    Interesting atricle Morgan.  I must admit I tend not to friend request the guys in my team, for most of the reasons you list, but I have friended people in the company in other departments or teams.  I wouldn’t refuse a request from one of my team but, luckily, for the most part I don’t receive them.  I wonder what your advise would be for friending clients and customers?  I have a few in my friend list, many of whom have since left the company I do business with.  It’s a difficult decision when a friend request pops up from the new customer you have just started working with and who you suspect might end up being a difficult customer!!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Russ. I have clients as Facebook friends too. I think the same advice applies for clients as managers, namely they should not initiate the Friend Request. It really should be up to you if you want to open that dialog. If you do get a Request from a client and are uncertain of the relationship, I think you could justifiably Ignore it, and connect on other networks (Twitter/G+). You can always go back and Friend them later once that more personal relationship is there. I think most people understand that FB is a more intimate/personal channel, and there’s a difference between team mates and the client/vendor relationship.

  • http://twitter.com/StrategicGuy StrategicGuy

    Good post, Morgan. 

    It’s a timeless dilemma faced by managers:  how friendly should you be with your employees?  The rapid rise of social media merely creates more environments to interact.

    There’s an interesting angle to this issue that I actually wrote about a few years back.  What happens when your worlds collide on Facebook? 

    I allowed my network of contacts to include buddies I grew up with, fraternity brothers, employees, clients, family, etc.  This led to a bit of embarrassment when an old friend tagged me in a few photos from my collegiate days.

    Here’s a link to my blog post that I thought your readers might enjoy:

    http://strategicguy.blogspot.com/2008/09/when-worlds-collide.html

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Marc – I actually think the way social networks bring together the different parts of our lives is one of their advantages. Helps people have an integrated lifestyle. I remember this dynamic in real life at my wedding when work, university and long time friends all mixed with various family members. It was bizarrely wonderful. Since then I haven’t worried about it. As work and ‘life’ co-mingle we all need to be the same person in each.